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What is the IELTS Exam?

This blog will explain what is IELTS exam. By the end of this blog you will have adequate information about what is IELTS exam. IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. It is a standardised test for testing and measuring the level of English language proficiency of people who wish to work and study in a country where English is used as a major language to fulfil the purposes of communication and teaching. The candidates taking the test are scored on a 9-band grading scale to determine the level of English language proficiency. An IELTS score in band 1 depicts a non-user, while an IELTS score in band 9 depicts an expert (in English).
There are no specific eligibility criteria for this exam. It is open for anyone and everyone of any gender, age qualification etc. The exam fee of IELTS is INR 14,000. The grading scale of this exam is a 9-band grading scale. The score attained by the student will have a validity of 2 years. IDP IELTS gives the availability of the exam date for Indian students. The students can pay the fees through credit/debit card, demand draft, and bank deposits. There is a new form of IELTS exam called computer-driven IELTS.

What is IELTS Exam Importance? 

It is very important to understand what is IELTS exam and its importance? UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, and Canada, these are the most popular countries which accept IELTS test scores for application. So there is no need to explain what value it holds. As a student who wants to study abroad and gain international experience IELTS is a must have assessment not just to let you into a top institute but to know where you stand also.

Over 11,000 organisations globally accept IELTS and it is accepted in 3400+ institutions in the USA. While it is so popular it is also the best standardized test which gives your pimple of your current status in English proficiency.

It is used in immigration. IELTS is accepted to determine one’s English language expertise. The UK-government has authorized the Secure English Language Test (SELT) as part of the visa application procedure. The exam is recognized as IELTS Life Skills or ‘IELTS for UKVI.’ So basically IELTS plays a role in obtaining a citizenship and a visa also.

There are Two Types of the IELTS Test

what is ielts exam types

1. IELTS Acedemic 

The IELTS Academic test is taken by students and research scholars who wish to continue further studies in foreign universities. IELTS is widely recommended and accepted by almost every major university all across the world. The reason behind its wide acceptance is that the curriculum and test structure reflects features of academic language and assesses whether a candidate is prepared to begin studying or training.

2. IELTS General Training

The IELTS General Training Test is usually taken by students and professionals who wish to go to a majority English-speaking country for a secondary education degree, professional work, or training. It is a requirement that needs to be fulfilled to move to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The basic skills that the IELTS score aim to determine include survival skills in social and workplace settings.

What is IELTS Exam?

You must demonstrate a high level of English language proficiency if you want to work, reside, or study in an English-speaking country. With 379 million speakers globally, English is the world’s third most spoken language. The ability to speak in the native language of the nation where you want to work or study offers numerous advantages. It’s also necessary for getting a job and integrating into the community. IELTS is the most widely used test for people who want to move to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. It is recognised by over 11,000 employers, universities, institutions, and immigration organisations around the world, including 3,400 in the United States.

Some key features of the IELTS Exam include the following:

After understanding what is IELTS exam, lets look onto some important and interesting key feature of the IELTS exam:

  1. The exam is fair to all and does not classify students based on culture. It invites and accepts people from all backgrounds and does not create any bias between the standard variations of the level of English language all across the world. Native speakers and dialects of Australian, North American, British, and New Zealand English are given equal importance.
  2. The IELTS exam is extremely widely available all across the world in over 16000 centres. In the United States alone, the exam is available in more than 50 locations.

What is IELTS Exam Eligibility?

It is a very general query that always arises in the mind of test taker that what is the IELTS exam eligibility? Anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religion, can take the IELTS test; however, it is not suggested for individuals under the age of 16. As a result, the IELTS administrators (IDP or British Council) have not set an age limit; however, candidates under 16 are not recommended. They can, however, take the test if they wish. As a result, the IELTS conducting authorities have not established any minimum eligibility requirement. Therefore, anyone who aspires to pursue higher education or work in a foreign country can take the IELTS exam (Academic and General Training). This makes the question what is IELTS exam clearer. Candidates should, however, carefully check the educational institution’s or organization’s eligibility requirements before applying. The IELTS exam is not scheduled for a specific number of times. Instead, it is held multiple times a year to provide candidates with the option of picking a day and taking the test whenever they are ready. Furthermore, there is no limit to the number of times you can attempt or retake the exam. Pay the exam retake cost and take the exam as many times as you wish (given that you have to pay the fees for every attempt).

Registration for IELTS

Ensure you have your passport with you when you register because you’ll need it to get your passport number. Aside from that, you must have your passport with you on the day of the test. The IELTS registration process is simple:

  • To begin, go to the official registration page of the British Council.
  • Sign up for a British Council account.
  • Locate a testing centre near you.
  • Register for the IELTS test and pay for it online.

Under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must schedule the exam on their behalf. After completion of the registration process, your test centre will email you a written confirmation with your IELTS exam date and time.

IELTS Test Format and Mode of Conducting

what is ielts exam format

What is IELTS exam test format? The IELTS test format contains four sections. The IELTS aims to test a candidate in 4 main abilities: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking in English. The duration of the exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The listening, reading and writing sections of the test must be taken on the same day without any breaks. However, the speaking test section can be taken separately up to a week before or after your actual test.

The date and time of your speaking test section depend largely on your test centre. Also, the reading and writing sections of the test are what makes the major difference between the IELTS Academic and IELTS general training tests.

The Detailed Description of Each Section is Given Below


what is ielts exam listening

What is IELTS exam listening section? The duration of the listening test is 30 minutes. During this section, a candidate must carefully listen to four recordings of conversations among native-English speakers. There will be a total of 40 questions in this section, each carrying one mark. The tasks will be of the following types:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching
  • Plan, map and diagram labelling
  • Form, note, table, flow-chart,
  • summary completion
  • Sentence completion
  • Short answer questions


What is IELTS exam reading section? The duration of the reading test is 60 minutes. The IELTS test format for the reading section will be 40 questions again, each carrying one mark. The various reading skills tested in this section include reading for gist, main ideas and details.

It also tests a candidate’s ability to skim through a piece of writing, understand the logic behind an argument, and correctly determine the tone of the piece and the opinions and purpose of the writer behind writing it.

The reading sections of the academic and general training tests are significantly different. The details of the tasks can be found below:


what is ielts exam reading


The task types of the academic test, with three reading passages, include – multiple-choice; identifying information; identifying the writer’s views or claims; matching information, headings, features and sentence endings; sentence; summary; note; table; flow-chart and diagram label completion; and short answer questions.

Most of the writing pieces in this section are chosen from books, magazines, journals and newspapers. The texts do not pertain to any particular field of interest and are extremely general to accommodate every student.

General Training:

The General Training test consists of three sections. While the types of tasks remain the same, the contents of the three pieces vary significantly.

The first section is based on ‘social survival’ and includes a notice, advertisement, or timetable. The second section is based on ‘workplace survival’ and includes job descriptions, contracts, training materials, and staff development techniques. Finally, the third section is based on ‘general reading’ and includes writings from newspapers, magazines, fictional and non-fictional books.


What is IELTS exam writing section? The duration of the writing section is also 60 minutes. The details of the IELTS test format for academic tests and general training tests are given as follows:

what is ielts exam writing


The academic test consists of 2 tasks, and there is no choice between them. In the first task, candidates are required to describe a visual representation in the form of a graph, table, chart or diagram, in their own words.

Candidates are expected to write 150 words in 20 minutes here. For the second task, they must respond to an argument pr problem. Therefore, test takers are expected to write 250 words in 40 minutes for the second task approximately.

General Training:

The general training test also consists of 2 tasks that need to be completed in 60 minutes.

The first task requires the examinees to write a letter requesting information or explanation. The second task requires the examinees to write an essay in response to an argument or problem.

In this section, students are marked on their task achievement, coherence, lexical resource and grammar usage.


What is IELTS exam speaking section? The speaking test section of the IELTS is fairly easy and can be completed in less than 15 minutes. This section of the speaking test is actually in the form of an oral interview with an examiner. The three tasks in the speaking test section are described below in detail:

what is ielts exam speaking
  1. For the first task, the examiner asks the test taker available details about themselves like their home, family, work, studies, hobbies, etc. This task takes about 4-5 minutes.
  2. For the first task, the examiner asks the test taker available details about themselves like their home, family, work, studies, hobbies, etc. This task takes about 4-5 minutes.
  3. The third task is nothing but an extension of the second task where the examiner asks more questions and discusses abstract ideas with the test taker. This task lasts for another 5 minutes approximately.

Students are marked based on their fluency, coherence of thoughts, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

Section-Wise Exam Pattern

Lets understand what is IELTS exam pattern? The IELTS exam pattern for each of the four sections are:

  • IELTS Listening Section Exam Pattern

The IELTS listening section has a total of forty questions. The total time given to complete this section is 30 minutes. Each section contains ten questions.

The questions in the IELTS Listening exam will be in the form of:

  • Sentence Completion
  • Matching the Correct Answer
  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Short-answer Questions
  • Labelling of Map, Plan or Diagram
  • Completion of Summary, Table, Flowchart etc.
  • IELTS Speaking Section Exam Pattern

The IELTS speaking section is of 11-14 minutes in total. The exam pattern is as follows:

Section No. Time duration Type of Questions
1 4-5 minutes The student will have to speak on general topics.
2 3-4 minutes The student will draw a cue card and speak on the topic written on it.
3 4-5 minutes The examiner will discuss the topic drawn from the cue card with the candidate.
  • IELTS Reading Section Exam Pattern

The exam pattern of the reading section for IELTS contains 40 questions divided into three sections. Sixty minutes is the time duration given to complete the exam. The types of questions in this exam are:

  • Short-answer Questions
  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Matching the Correct Headings, Information, Sentence Endings and Features
  • Identifying the Information and Writers Views
  • Completion of Sentences, Diagrams, Summary, Flowcharts and TablesIELTS Writing Section Exam Pattern

For the IELTS Writing section, there will be two tasks given. The duration of this section is 60 minutes. The exam pattern is as follows:

Task No. Time Duration Number of Words
1 20 minutes 150 words
2 40 minutes 250 words

Interpretation of Scores

As mentioned earlier, the IELTS grades test takers on a 9-band scale. What is IELTS exam validity you ask? The IELTS score is valid for two years.

The final IELTS band grade is a cumulative average of your scores in all four sections of your test. Regardless of the difference in nature, both types of tests are graded on the same 9-band scale. If the average of the four components ends with 0.25, the band score is rounded off to the next half band (.5), and if it ends with 0.75, the band score is rounded off to the nearest whole band(.0).

For each section, the IELTS score is reported in whole and half bands. All the abovementioned criteria are weighted equally, and the final component band is an average of all the weights.

How are the IELTS Band Scores Calculated?

One may wonder, what is IELTS exam band score calculated and what’s the process? The overall IELTS Band calculator will give you a test result calculated to the nearest 0.5 or nearest whole band score. If your final score is not precisely 6.5, your score is pushed to the nearest whole score or half score, depending on which is nearest.
Let’s take some examples of how the IELTS overall band score calculator works and how the scores are given.
● If your overall score is 7.1, your score will go down to 7. This is the nearest whole
band score. It shows that 7.1 is closer to 7 and not 7.5.
● If your overall score is 7.85, your final result will be 8. This is because 7.85 is closer to and not 7.5
● If your score is an average of 8.25, your score will be increased to 8.5. The score of
8.25 is precisely between band 8 and 8.5. So, in this case, IELTS pushes your score
up to the nearest score, which is 8.5.
● If your score is an average of 6.75, your score will be increased to 7. The score of
6.75 is precisely between band 6.5 and 7, so the overall score is pushed up to the
seven scores.

Therefore, your score is rounded up or down to the nearest 0.5 or whole number score.

The nine bands are graded as follows

9: Expert user – The person taking the test has complete mastery of the language. Their English is suitable, correct, and fluent, and they demonstrate complete comprehension.

8: Very good user – With only a few unsystematic mistakes and incorrect usage, the person taking the test has a thorough mastery of the language. In unfamiliar environments, they may misunderstand some things.  They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.

7: Good user – The test taker has a functional mastery of the language, yet there are occasional mistakes, incorrect usage, and misunderstandings. They can usually deal with complicated language and comprehend detailed logic.

6: Competent user – Despite occasional mistakes, incorrect usage, and misconceptions, the test taker has a good command of the language. In familiar contexts, they can use and understand pretty complex language.

5: Modest user – The test taker has a rudimentary understanding of the language and can deal with overall meaning in most instances, although they are likely to make numerous errors. In their field, they should be able to handle basic communication.

4: Limited user – The test taker’s basic competency is limited to scenarios that they are familiar with. They usually display difficulties with comprehension and expression. They are unable to communicate in a complicated manner.

3: Extremely limited user – In relatively familiar settings, the test taker expresses and understands the only generic meaning. As a result, a lot of communication breakdowns occured.

2: Intermittent user – The person taking the test has difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

1: Non-user – Except for a few isolated words, the test taker cannot use the language.

0: Did not attempt the test – The test taker failed to respond to any of the questions. They do not have an adequate level of English language proficiency.

Calculation of Reading and Listening band score

40-39 9
38-37 8.5
36-35 8
34-33 7.5
32-30 7
29-27 6.5
26-23 6
22-19 5.5
18-15 5
14-13 4.5
12-10 4
9-8 3.5
7-6 3
5-4 2.5

IELTS Writing Assessment Criteria

What is IELTS exam writing assessment criteria? The writing task is assessed with the help of four criteria:
1. Task Achievement
It assesses the candidate based on presenting accurate information, providing an overview, and highlighting the key features.
2. Coherence and Cohesion
It assesses the candidate based on organising information and using a range of linking devices.
3. Lexical Resource
It assesses the candidate based on using a range of words and paraphrasing, using
collocations, correct spelling and avoiding errors.
4. Grammar Range and Accuracy
It assesses the candidate based on using a range of sentence structures and grammar
tenses, punctuations and avoiding errors.

IELTS Speaking Assessment Criteria

What is IELTS exam speaking assessment criteria? The speaking criteria takes into consideration fluency, lexical resource, grammar range and accuracy, and pronunciation. All these qualities are checked by looking at the candidate’s ability to speak at length in English, without pauses and hesitations and significant errors.


IELTS Fees and Scholarships

The IELTS registration fee is Rs. 14,000. If you cancel your IELTS application more than five weeks before the test date, you will receive a refund minus a 25% administrative cost. You will not be refunded if you cancel your IELTS exam less than five weeks before the test date. In addition, you will not be refunded if you do not show up for the test. This is regarded as a cancellation as well. After deducting the local administrative cost, those who can show a medical certificate within five days of the test date will be eligible for reimbursement.

Test Type IELTS Fees (INR)
Computer-delivered IELTS 14,700
IELTS Life Skills (A1 and B1) 13,940
IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration 15,100
Pen and paper based IELTS 14,700

You must request a test day transfer at least five weeks before your scheduled test day and pay the cancellation/postponement fee if you need to change your test date. Additionally, the replacement test date must fall within three months of the original test date. To transfer a test date, candidates must pay an administrative fee of INR 3,300, inclusive of all taxes.

Paying tuition in a foreign currency while also coping with excessive living costs is one of the most major difficulties of studying abroad. Many students are unable to travel abroad due to these factors and must rely on alternative solutions. However, students can now realize their dreams thanks to the availability of several IELTS Scholarships and education financing. Scholarships and other fellowships and scholarships are regularly offered to outstanding students and can be found on each college’s official website. In addition, students can also take out an education loan from a financial institution for studying abroad. These things are equally importance to understand what is IELTS exam.

How Can One Prepare for IELTS?

what-is-ielts-exam how to prepare for ielts

For preparation, one must familiarise themselves with the IELTS test format & know what is IELTS exam itself. In addition, you must know and understand all the tasks and their types. Several official sample test questions are available on the IELTS website that one can go through while preparing.

There are official IELTS practice materials available for purchase (with CDs or DVDs). However, it would be extremely helpful if one studies directly from the official sample material as it gives them a clear and proper idea of the test and the types of questions they should expect.

The IELTS exam gives the candidate the flexibility of giving the exam all throughout the year. This gives time to the students to prepare for the exam. The syllabus for IELTS may seem vast for some candidates. There is no particular time that is required to prepare for IELTS. The preparation time depends on the individual. The candidates that are already proficient with the English language usually need a month to prepare. Students who do not have a good hold on the English language should prepare for IELTS for a minimum of three months. There are few general tips for the preparation of IELTS:

  • The candidates should practice with respect to the test pattern of the type of exam they will give, IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training.
  • The students should download and practise the sample papers given on the IELTS official website.
  • While practising, the students should review their answers and make a comparison with the answer sheet given.
  • As each section is time-based, the students should practise with a timer to test their speed.

The candidates should give equal importance to all four sections of IELTS, which are Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.  Following are the section-wise tips for the preparation of IELTS:

Preparation points for the Listening section

  • The quick tip for the students to ace their listening section is to write down the main points while listening to the audio.
  • The students should practise papers before the main exam. There are sample papers present on the official website of IELTS. Those exams will be according to the current exam pattern and are available for free.
  • With the free sample papers, answer sheets are also available. The students are advised to refer to those answer sheets after practising the sample questions. This will give you a comparison of how you should answer.
  • As the audio in the listening section gets played only once, the students should stay attentive in their practice tests as well. The students should practice being attentive during the practice exams.

 Preparation points for the Reading section

  • The students are advised to answer the questions in this section very precisely. There should be no grammatical error.
  • After completing the exam, the student should proofread the entire answer sheet to verify if there are no mistakes at all before submitting the exam.
  • The reading section required attention to little details. The questions asked are in the format of diagrams, graphs, images etc. So, attentiveness is the key to ace this section.
  • The passages contain the answers to the questions asked. The students should pay attention to the passage and read them very carefully.

 Preparation points for the Writing section

  • The students should give this section wisely. Plan the structure of the essay before writing. The content should contain subheadings and essential points.
  • The essential points and facts should not be repeated many times.
  • The candidates are advised to utilize the entire time of the exam effectively.
  • The students are advised to revise their answers and proofread them before submitting the answer sheet.

 Preparation points for the Speaking section

  • The candidate’s diction should have no grammatical errors and should be appropriately structured.
  • The students are advised to practice the English language every day with their friends and family. This will help in improving the student’s fluency in English.
  • At times the student may not hear the question asked by the examiner clearly. In this case, the student should ask the examiner to repeat the question without any fear.
  • The students should answer the questions confidently and with a smile (depending on the topic).

Top Facts About IELTS

Major Impact on Abroad Studies: Students who wish to study abroad need to appear in an English language test. This is where the IELTS steps in to help. It is only the most standardised, common, famous and did we mention the most eminent English test?

No Standard Eligibility: IELTS can be taken by anyone irrespective of age, gender, race, nationality or religion. So you do not have to worry about anything, and only focus on your studies. In the absence of any restrictions, IELTS is a great way to evaluate yourself. 

Overall Assessment Test: The IELTS test consists of four sections: speaking, listening, reading and writing. It is an overall English test meant not just to measure your intelligence but your overall ability to understand the language. 

Regular Conducting Exam: The IELTS Academic test is conducted four times a month, making for 48 fixed test dates. The IELTS General Training test is conducted twice a month, making it available on 24 dates in a calendar year. 

Immigration Involvement: The UK government has authorised the Secure English Language Test (SELT) as part of the visa application procedure. The exam is recognised as IELTS Life Skills or ‘IELTS for UKVI.’ In conclusion, IELTS plays a crucial role in obtaining citizenship and a visa also.


IELTS is one of the best tests that one can take to prove their English language proficiency. The test fee varies across test centres but usually stays within the $225-$250. In India, British Council charges about Rs. 14000 for both the paper-based and the computer-based tests (academic and general training).

The British Council also offers a scholarship, IELTS Awards, based on your test scores. The prize money for this award ranges between £3000 and £10,000 depending upon the tuition fee of the institution chosen by the winner.

The eligibility criteria that one must fulfil to be considered for this award include being over 18 years of age, having a minimum band score of 6.5 in every component, must have taken the test at a German British Council Centre and must have received an acceptance letter with no plans of deferring admission. In addition, the minimum fees of the chosen programme must be£3000 to be eligible for consideration.

The IELTS test is a standardised test for admission that is accepted worldwide. One can easily score well in this exam with a little hard work and consistency. Developing an early habit of reading contributes greatly to the preparation for the test. Each exam has its unique preparation method, which affects how the exam day is handled. Planning your exam day and strategising how to crack the question paper is just as important as studying for the exam. As a result, being exam-day ready is just as vital as being familiar with the subject. Hope the question – What is IELTS exam is now clear.


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